The best way to prevent tickborne diseases is to prevent tick bites. In Vermont, tickborne illnesses are most often transmitted between early spring and late fall since ticks are most active during warm months.
Take action to decrease your risk of infection. Wear a repellent containing up to 30% DEET, check your body daily for ticks, and limit your exposure to ticks and tick habitats.
- Ticks prefer wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
- Take extra precautions in May, June and July, and later in October and November when ticks come out for one last meal before winter. This is when most infections occur.
- If you do enter a tick area, walk in the center of the trail to avoid contact with overgrown grass, brush and leaf litter.
- Apply EPA-registered insect repellent with up to 30% DEET on skin and clothing when you go outdoors. Don’t spray repellent on skin that is under clothing.
- Permethrin sprayed on clothing kills ticks on contact and gives protection through several washings. Do not use permethrin on skin.
- Wear long pants, long sleeves and long socks.
- Tuck pant legs into socks or boots and tuck shirts into pants to keep ticks on the outside of your clothing.
- Light-colored clothing will help you spot ticks more easily.
- Remove ticks from your clothes before going indoors.
- Put your clothes in the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes.
- Check your body and your child’s body after being outdoors, even in your own yard. Use a mirror to look at all parts of your body (armpits, behind ears, groin, etc.) and remove any ticks you find.
- Shower soon after spending time outside where there might be ticks.
Avoid touching the tick with your bare hands. Use fine-tipped tweezers, or one of the many available tick removal tools and firmly grasp the tick close to the skin.
- With a steady motion, pull straight up until all parts of the tick are removed. Do not twist or jerk the tick. Do not be alarmed if the tick's mouthparts remain in the skin.
- Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.
- Wash your hands and the bite area with soap and water.
Check out this video showing the right way to remove a tick, created by the New York State Department of Health.
- The best way to remove a tick is to use fine-tipped tweezers to pull straight up until all parts of the tick are removed.
- Don't use petroleum jelly, a hot match, nail polish, or any other products to remove a tick. These methods don't work.
- Symptoms may include fever, headache, joint pain, muscle aches, fatigue or a rash soon after a tick bite. Not all people with Lyme disease report a rash.
- Symptoms may begin as soon as three days after a tick bite, but can appear as long as 30 days after.
- Contact your health care provider if you develop any of the symptoms listed above.
- Tell your health care provider if you had a tick bite or found a tick on you, and tell them about your outdoor activities.
Frequently Asked Questions
You do not need to go to your health care provider or to the emergency room to have a tick removed. Most of the time, you can remove a tick safely and correctly using the method described above. If you have trouble removing the tick, or if you can’t reach the part of your body where the tick is attached, try asking a family member or friend to help. Make sure they review the removal method above, first!
Generally, infectious disease experts do not recommend the routine use of antibiotics following a tick bite as a way to prevent Lyme disease. Health care providers might offer patients a single dose of antibiotics after a tick bite if:
- The tick can be identified as a nyphmal or adult blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis);
- The tick has been attached for 36 hours or more;
- The antibiotic can be given within 72 hours of tick removal;
- Antibiotics are not contraindicated, and;
- Lyme disease is common in the area where the tick bite occurred. If you believe you picked up the tick anywhere in Vermont or neighboring states, this condition would be met.
Some people are interested in having ticks that they removed from themselves or loved ones tested for various tickborne diseases. The Vermont Department of Health does not recommend tick testing under these circumstances for the following reasons:
- You may not have been infected. Even if a tick is infected and tests positive, it may not have transmitted the infection to you.
- It might delay treatment. Tick test results take several days and may not be available in time to make a prompt health care decision.
- You may have other tick bites that you don't know about. Most people who are infected with tickborne disease do not recall a tick bite. Therefore, if someone were to develop symptoms of tickborne disease there would be no way to know whether the infection was from a known tick bite or another unknown tick bite. For example, if a tick is tested and the result is negative, you could still have been bitten by another infected tick, not know it, and develop symptoms of tickborne disease.
- Tests performed on ticks are not always perfect. All laboratory tests have the possibility of false positive or false negative results. Even with a negative result, people should still monitor themselves for the appearance of a rash, fever, and other flu-like symptoms. If any of these symptoms occur, you should contact your health care provider.
Some private laboratories offer tick testing, but the Vermont Department of Health and Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets do not collect ticks from the public and test them for tickborne diseases.
The best way to protect yourself is to know the facts about tickborne diseases in Vermont. To help spread the word, you can order free, evidence-based materials from the Health Department:
- "Be Tick Smart" Booklet
- "Be Tick Smart" Card
- "Prevent Lyme Disease" Outdoor Sign (CDC)
- "Tickborne Diseases of the United States: A Reference Manual for Health Care Providers" (CDC)